My rating: 5 out of 5
Goodreads Rating: 4.65 out of 5
Published: February 28th 2017
It’s easy to forget the human element of current events when the media (among others) do such a good job of obscuring it. Angie Thomas brings the reality of tragedy to light to an uncomfortable degree in this emotionally rich story of a girl whose friend gets shot by cops in front of her.
The best part about this story is by far the main character. Starr Carter splits her life between her poor neighbourhood and a predominantly white private school. Her constant conflict between which Starr to be in which situation leads her to keep her two lives completely separate, even when they’re beginning to collide after what happens.
Khalil and Starr are driving home from a party when they’re pulled over by cops. Unarmed and unthreatening, Khalil starts to open the door to check on Starr and the cop shoots him. His death sparks a series of protests and Starr is forced to adjust to this new role as witness even as she deals with the trauma of what she saw.
This is not a simple story. It is, as good stories should be, multifaceted. Khalil made some decisions in his life that were necessary, even if they weren’t idea. Starr struggles with her fear of the police versus her love for her uncle, who is also a cop. She feels a lot of guilt for what happened and for how she reacted to it, so she doesn’t know whether to be involved in the countermovement. At one point, she even objects to the protests on principle, knowing that her schoolmates are only joining in to skip a day of school.
As you may guess, this book is based on Black Lives Matter and the terrible shootings that have happened in recent (and not so recent) times against young black people, especially men. Angie Thomas does not back down from her message, but nor should she; we may be horrified by what happens, but how often do we think of the impact on those close to the person? Trayvon Martin may be a symbol, a face of a tragedy, but what about the human life behind it?
It always stuns me how bright and bold Young Adult books can be. Angie Thomas does a fantastic job of writing an interesting story with engaging, complex characters while still carrying a message through loud and clear.